The Structure, Part I (S3E4)
Celestograph by August Strindberg
The Structure, Part I
The generation ship floated, gently, upon the solar winds of a distant star.
“Andromeda?” said Lieutenant Captain, First Rank, Tamblyn Sazor.
“Yes, finally,” said Rear Admiral Tomis Pannen. “The dream of our ancestors, visible to the naked eye.”
“Five million years of travel, if the legends are true,” Tamblyn breathed, the words catching in her throat. Andromeda had been visible, distantly, since even their grandparents’ time, but seeing it so close was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
A distant clatter brought them back to the bridge of the generation ship — if “bridge” was the correct word, seeing as how it was the size of a small town on Terra, at least according to the historical tapes that teachers tried, and usually failed, to make children sit through. A woman was running towards them, barely noticing the sight outside, her arms filled with papers. Tamblyn and Tomis immediately who she was and what she carried — paper was far too precious to waste on anything but communications from the master of the ship.
“Sir, sir, He says there’s something out there,” said Communications Ensign Lee Suon, thrusting the top sheaf of paper at the rear admiral after a perfunctory bow.
“Well, of course there’s something out there — that’s why our ancestors sent us here, no?”
Lee shook her head. “It’s not a planet. He isn’t sure how to describe it.”
Tamblyn felt a pit open at the bottom of her stomach. Nobody could remember the last time words failed Him. “It couldn’t be a…” She couldn’t bring herself to say the last word.
“It’s not a mistake,” Lee said, side-eyeing the ambitious young lieutenant. “The Three Magi triple-checked the output.”
“Well, what can He say about it?” Tomis broke in, hoping to head off a conflict between the two rivals.
Lee shuffled through her papers. “It’s some kind of superstructure. Based on His description, the Three Magi have estimated it at 1.36% of Terra’s mass.”
“So a few times larger than the generation ship.”
“They haven’t detected any signals coming off it down in the sensorium — in fact, it seems to absorb photons. It’s a miracle He was able to detect it at all.” Upon hearing an invocation of His mysteries, they all subtly made the holy sign of awakening — the index finger of the right hand sliding between a circle made of the index finger and thumb of the left, then curling to make a hook.
“What does he suggest doing? Do we ignore it and continue as planned? Five million years of planning shouldn’t change just because of one unexpected rock.”
“Mm, He feels there may be other such structures that He has not been able to detect yet. Indeed, He feels they may even be…” She hesitated to say the curse word.
“Alien,” Tamblyn supplied. Lee and Tomis glanced over at her — Tamblyn was not known to swear freely, unlike some of her underlings — but given the gravity of the situation they didn’t comment.
“In any case,” Lee continued, “the Three Magi have calculated a threat assessment of Orange-Omega, which, as you know, demands an immediate exploratory team and a state of high alert among those with clearance.”
Tomis nodded thoughtfully. “We’ll need volunteers. I’m not willing to send good men and women to their deaths just to know more.”
“I volunteer,” Tamblyn said without hesitation.
“I knew you would,” Tomis said with a smile. “You’ll need a team. Do you have recruits in mind?”
“Then I wish you good luck,” he said with a nod. She saluted and marched off to find her people.
Hat tip to Jia Huah for the prompt.